Branch offices offered ride on wireless Trapeze

NetEvents: How do you offer Wi-Fi at your local branch if the staff haven't got the know-how to keep it running? Trapeze Networks claims it has the answer

Wireless equipment vendor Trapeze Networks launched a wireless LAN product this week aimed at companies who want to offer Wi-Fi at their branch offices.

The MXR-2 is a switch that will support up to three wireless access points. Trapeze says that the device offers similar functionality to an enterprise-class wireless switch at a significantly lower price.

"Branch offices and small and medium-sized businesses represent the next big WLAN opportunity," Jenni Adair, a spokesperson for Trapeze, told NetEvents on Friday.

Trapeze believes that the deployment of wireless LANs in branch offices is being held back because employees on the ground don't have the technical skills needed to maintain and manage the network. The MXR-2 can be managed remotely from head office, through a browser-based application that lets an IT manager control hundreds of branch office WLANs. All the branch office staff must do, Trapeze claims, is to plug it in.

The MXR-2 has been trialled by an unnamed financial services firm that wanted to install wireless networks at hundreds of branch offices.

"The only logical way of doing a deployment of that scale would be if people who are not IT-savvy can get it running, and then an IT guy behind a console at head office could manage it," explained Michael Coci, director of support and marketing for Trapeze in Europe.

Because the MXR-2 supports virtual LANs, it can give an employee full online access but restrict other users. For example, an area manager touring the offices under his control could still get access to information on the corporate servers back at HQ.

Coci suggested that retail chains or banks might be keen to offer their customers free Wi-Fi -- pointing to the trend towards 'boutique banks' where coffee can be ordered alongside an overdraft.

Trapeze claims that the MXR-2 offers a high level of resilience. Should the switch fail, then the access points can automatically reconnect to a switch at the head office.

Of course, companies could decide to just install access points at their branch offices and connect them, ideally over a virtual private link, to head office. Trapeze says that its offering provides more features and is more secure -- as all the sensitive data is stored on the switch which can be kept in a secure room.

MXR-2 is scheduled to go on sale in Europe later this year priced at £615 or €890. The device is priced at $995 for US customers.